Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Meet... Cyprien Katsaris

Cyprien Katsaris has taught me that you can admire a person and laugh at (with?) him at the same time - positively speaking, of course. I truly admire his genius, and yet am more often than not unable to watch him with a straight face. Gotta love the hair :-)

Now, seriously: He's my favourite pianist of today, at least as far as Chopin is concerned. Trying to be objective, he's certainly "one of" the finest pianists. (And, seriously, don't you ever cut your hair short!)

Thanks to a friend of mine, I discovered this video. Few videos on YouTube make you fall off your chair in laughter just to make your jaw drop a few seconds after. And then make you laugh, and then make your jaw drop, and again, and again... Just amazing.

I don't know what he had smoked before this, but I want it too! :-D Bach's Toccata & Fuga faster than ever...

So that we don't just show the curiosities: Cyprien Katsaris playing The Flight of the BumbleBee by Rimsky-Korsakoff / Cziffra - in Cziffra's presence, in 1975.

Last, but not least: Mr. Katsaris is a magician when playing Chopin, here's one of my little favourites:

I hope you enjoy it. Thanks for uploading to Sissco, dafuckinmart, jaimeleclassique, and tosa1gou, respectively. I love you, Cyprien, please come to the Czech Republic sometime! ♥

Monday, 12 October 2009

Chopin's Death Mask in Prague

The Czech Republic is the first and, so far, the last country to welcome Frédéric Chopin's death mask. The year 2010 is to be named The Year of Chopin by UNESCO. At the gala concert, the Chopin Symphony Orchestra and Choir, conducted by the best Polish conductor Lukasz Borowicz, will play Mozart's Requiem - the composition that the Polish composer himself asked to be played at his funeral. Prague's St.Vitus Cathedral's bells and Warsaw's St.John's Cathedral's bells will sound at the same time.

It is actually Chopin's second death mask. The first one, taken right after the composer's passing, was regarded too troubled and weary by the mortal illness. Therefore the sculptor, Jean-Baptiste Clésinger, smoothed out its features. As a miracle, the bronze cast survived the World War II and the bombing of the Royal Palace in Warsaw.

Why Mozart's Requiem? Mozart influenced Chopin a lot. He died 19 year before Chopin, who often returned to Mozart's compositions, which he loved very much - especially his Don Giovanni and Requiem. When Chopin felt that his illness was fighting him, he had sent for its score. His last wish was "play Mozart's Requiem at my funeral, as a farewell."

Saturday, 10 October 2009

FruFru's Attitude towards Opera Productions

"When the curtain opened on La rondine at Covent Garden, the audience gasped and applauded. People want to dream. If directors want to do something new with operas, why not do something beautiful?"
Angela Gheorghiu

In response to the recent talks about the new Tosca at the Metropolitan Opera, directed by Luc Bondy, I came to the conclusion that it's about time for me to summarize what I actually think. I'm open to discussion. An "IMHO" applies to all of it, as a matter of course.

Yes, I do think that Carsen's Rusalka was bad, and no, I'm not afraid to say it.

Firstly and primarily, my opinion is that a director is just another interpreter - next to the conductor and the soloist. He or she should be seeking the best ways how to present the author's vision to the members of the audience.

The most often performed operas were composed in the 19th century. Everything about them is romantic (or "Realistic", haha). The problem of most "modern" productions is that they interfere with the opera, rather than interpret it. Dvořák composed a romantic fairy-tale, Carsen directs it as a psychological drama, making everybody who understands Czech laugh their head off. The reason for giving this example is the critical acclaim of this production. If you want a DVD with Rusalka, you can choose between an English one and this one.

My favourite simile is that to a painting and a frame. Operas are like Romantic or Realistic paintings. They work the best in those wooden, artistically crafted frames, OR in frames which don't interfere with them. On the other hand, can you imagine a Géricault in, say, a neon frame? No matter how interesting the frame is, its task is to frame a painting by Géricault, in which it fails.

According to many today's philosophers, the Enlightenment fable, that "the newer, the better", is rooted deeply in our society. A director will be praised (because the booing ones will be put aside as philistines), if his/her production is "innovative". As if there were the connoisseurs on one side, and the conservative grannies (whom every decent connoisseur scorns) on the other side.

Not that I am saying that Carsen is a bad director or that we should have a set amount of productions repeating. Even though, it's not a bad idea - just like we have a set amount of classical operas, musicians are trying to find the best way within what they offer... Imagine directors studying day in, day out, how to approach a Zeffirelli! Anyway, everybody should be reasonable, and not lament on the absence of candles in a Tosca, but, at the same time, not approving Tosca resting on a couch and revel in the sight of the dead Scarpia. Or any of the many things wrong with this production, for that matter.

A word [a little] against the "traditionalist" productions. I think it is actually quite difficult to direct such a production. Yes, if you fail, you don't insult anybody, but there are as many productions which lack some chemistry and are essentially boring, as the abortive "modern" ones.

Respect, man, just a little bit. For the author, performer, work, everything.

Just an off-topic footnote: Why do so many directors seem to relish in being despotic? It's a psychological 101, especially in a performing genre. The actor (singer) must know your (director's) intentions, and must trust them and agree with them. It's a hard enough job, why make it even harder by pushing them to things? Moreover, they might come with something useful on their own. A good leader is not a tyrant.

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

50 Years Since Mario Lanza's Demise

On this day, 50 years ago, mankind lost one of the most beautiful voices ever, and a wife, parents and four children lost their husband, son and father. The all-too-warm heart of Mario Lanza's stopped beating and his voice silenced forever on October 7, 1959.

Guardian Angels by Harpo Marx is a lullaby, but I have never heard it as such; and if, then for a child who is seriously ill. I can't help the interpretation that the guardian angels are holding the delirious child's hand and, if he loses his fight, will show him to the paradise.

Rest in peace, Mario.

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

Jan Martiník: A New Hope for Czech Opera

['jan 'marciɲi:k] This young Czech bass at first wanted to study Medicine, like his father. Luckily, his talent was discovered when he was still at secondary school. Since then, he has been third at the Elena Obrazcova's competition in Moscow, a finalist of Operalia, and a winner of the Art Song Prize at the Cardiff Singer of the World competition.

Here's why: